The Vase

john ater
3 min readJan 2, 2021

©2020 john ater

The ancient Japanese art of kintsugi* employees a technique of mending broken pottery with a special tree sap mixed with powdered gold. As the artisan fits the broken pieces together and cements them with the golden sap, what was a shattered vase begins to take on its second life and begins to emerge even more beautiful as the artisan mends it, rebuilding the vase piece by piece, soldering each piece with the beauty of gold and sap. In the end, the vase stands even more beautiful, its broken pieces lovingly mended by the hand of a true artisan. The vase becomes much more than its original, much more than its shattered pieces.

Vase photograph courtesy of Karen Swami, © https:///

When our hearts break and the overwhelming pain washes over us, the ache blinds us to the gentle, skilled hand that picks up the jagged pieces, studies them, foresees the beauty in reconstructing our hearts’ broken scraps. Blinded by our agony, deadened by the awful ache of perceived loss, we fail to comprehend the force that sees the beauty in our pieces of broken pain; we cannot imagine that a skilled and loving hand could ever mend our hearts so we will be whole again. As our hearts break open with the pain, the light floods in blinding us in its awful beauty, filling us with the love driven, terrible ache of loss and the dreadful joy of melancholic sadness until our spirits want to die and pull the dirt of the grave over our pain racked bodies.

With time, though, the eyes of our spirits adjust to that seemingly blinding, black darkness and we begin to catch glimpses of the world around us, at first through the haze of pain, then more clearly as we begin to see with a deeper understanding. As the pain slowly fades, we haltingly realize our broken hearts are slowly mending as the artisan reconstructs them and the golden seams that fill the jagged bits of ourselves with the painful light of gold overflows, flooding us with the sharp light of healing.

We shed our tears and bear our unbearable pain and, in that journey, we begin to see again and we begin to open ourselves to the world around us. If we’re fortunate, if we truly open ourselves to the experience unburdened of our harsh self judgements, absent our ideas of how the world should be, accepting the world as it is and not as we would have it, if we turn the pain into love rather than bitterness, then those who are not as far along on…

john ater

author / street photographer / writer / editor / iconoclast / anarchist